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Ask The Career Coach: Managing Phone And Skype Interviews

September 5, 2013

Denise.RiebmanToday’s blog post comes from our “Ask the Career Coach” Column by Denise Riebman (AmeriCorps ’94), Director of Career Development and Alumni Services for the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration at George Washington University. Each month Denise takes questions from our LinkedIn Group and responds in our “Ask the Career Coach” column.  If you have a question for the AmeriCorps Alums “Ask the Career Coach” column, you can submit it here.

Questions about Skype and Phone Interviews:  I’ve finally landed an interview but because my AmeriCorps site is not in the same city as the job, they are going to do it via Skype – what is your advice on how to handle that type of interview?  I received a call from the organization and they are doing all first round interviews by phone to save staff time.  What are your tips for how to ace a phone interview?

2013.09.Skype.InterviewVirtual interviews are on the rise as more employers are tapping into technology to weed out candidates and maximize their shrinking recruiting budgets so don’t be surprised if you are scheduled for a phone/Skype interview, even if you live in the same town as the employer.  While it can’t substitute for the human interaction during an in-person interview, if you follow these tips, you could soon be negotiating your compensation package with the employer…hopefully in person!

This is NOT Interview Lite

Too often, applicants mistake the Skype or phone interview for a lighter version of an in-person interview and then crash and burn when tough questions are asked.  Even if you are told that this is just an initial conversation, what is considered a “screening interview” varies tremendously so prepare as much as you would for an in-person interview.  A big advantage to virtual interviews is that you can have more detailed notes right in front of you so use this to your advantage when you do your homework about the organization, people interviewing you and answers to potential questions.   While you don’t want to read your notes verbatim, they can be a useful crutch to refer to in response to questions.

Virtual Welcome Handshake

Since you can’t shake their hand upon entering the room, that initial connection, whether on the phone or via Skype, needs to substitute for the impression you’d give with a confident, welcoming handshake.  It might feel awkward to smile while you’re all alone in a room, but connect with them through verbal (Ask “how are you?” and introduce yourself to everyone on the call/video) and non-verbal cues (smile, sit tall, project confidence).  If it helps, put a post note on your monitor that says “Smile!” as a reminder.   While it may feel odd at first, look at the camera, not the screen, when talking to the interviewers to maximize eye contact.

Dress The Part…From Head to Toe

2013.09. Half-dressedI’ve heard stories about people who matched their tie and jacket with sweatpants thinking that interviewers would only see the top half but then had technology issues which required them to get up, revealing that they were only half-dressed.  Definitely not a good impression to make.   Everything from the top, such as brushing your teeth (they may not be able to smell your breath, but you’ll feel more polished) to the bottom, including wearing professional shoes will put you in the right frame of mind and ensure you’re prepared for anything.  Half-dressed will give them the impression that you are only half ready for this job!

 Organize your space and computer

Remember that fiasco during the Zimmerman trial where one of the expert’s Skype address was revealed on national television and he started getting crank calls?  Prep for the interview by turning off every other computer program (including your cell phone which should be nearby if you’re on Skype in case of technical problems) including calendar reminders so that you are not distracted by sounds/pop-ups during the interview.  Clear off your desk and find a neutral background space – your love of Star Wars action figures or obsession with high heeled leopard print shoes does not need to be on display.  For either a phone or Skype interview, make sure that all noise distractions are minimized by shutting windows, getting a babysitter for children (having your kids watch a video during an interview does not guarantee that they won’t call out to you) and keeping pets far, far away.

Don’t fly by the seat of your pants

Ask a friend to help you prepare for interview by doing a practice call or Skype to test out the audio/visual and any other technology issues.  Check on your volume and picture quality to make sure that your best self is being conveyed through the phone/computer.

Energy and Silence

During a virtual interview, it’s harder to convey your energy so dial up your enthusiasm and voice pitch.  Sometimes it helps to slow or quicken your vocal cadence to express your energy and get your point across the “wires.”   On the opposite end of the spectrum, silence is often a part of a phone interview which often makes people nervous so they ramble to fill that space and saying things that they shouldn’t.  The interviewers might just be writing down your answers or talking among themselves so be patient with silence after you answer a question.  Practice with a friend or check out online services (; where you can record and analyze yourself to make sure that you’re giving off the right energy.

Virtual Goodbye Handshake

Just as you would want to end an in-person interview with a handshake, think about how you virtually can leave them with that same strong impression.  Thank everyone on the phone/video and ask for their contact information (thank you notes are a MUST no matter how an interview is conducted).  Reiterate your interest in the position and leave them thinking that there is no one better for the job than you.  Give them one more smile, log off/hang up, breathe and now, reach for those sweatpants!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Angela permalink
    February 18, 2014 9:23 pm

    I had a skype interview not too long ago and I had put my phone away so it wouldn’t disrupt anything. Waiting for them to skype me, I had a feeling to check my phone. They had called me to do a phone interview instead of a skype interview because their skype wasn’t working. Thank god I checked my phone when I did! Its always a good idea to keep your phone by you but on silent just in case their skype isn’t working and they have to do a phone interview.

    Also consider the time changes ahead of time. The skype/phone interview maybe at 3pm their time so plan ahead and consider the time change before the interview.

    Im going to school 3hrs away from home and I applied to a job near home and im an hr ahead. It just hit me the day of the interview that I was ahead of time because of being so busy at school It didn’t even cross my mind that I was an hour ahead! Needless to say I had an extra hour to prepare!

    Good luck!!! 🙂


  1. 5 Tips for a successful Skype interview | Roscrea Job Club

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